Sunday, March 5, 2017

Week 63: "I Did Not Have International Relations With That Country" (March 5, 2017)

Dear Readers,

The election may have been three months ago, but there’s still a ton of political news. Reminder that newsletters and more are always available at


“I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

This is what greeted us Saturday morning, and it’s been dominating the news cycle ever since. But what the hell do we make of this nonsense? We can start with basics: Trump is insinuating Obama ordered Trump’s phones tapped - something Obama would’ve had no power to do. But if Trump has found out his phones were tapped, that would mean the FBI found a reason to do it. Not from Obama’s orders, but from probable cause that Trump was committing serious crimes. Which would obviously be a big deal.
And while I doubt he’d willingly admit it, there’s little evidence that he knew what he was talking about at all. So there is a chance he walked himself into a very deep hole. But I doubt that’s what happened - I think he’s just insinuating crazy stuff for some reason or another, as usual, with no regard for the truth, to see if it sticks or at least to keep us talking about something. Which is what it has us doing, of course, but since there may be a trail it’s worth talking about, until we figure out exactly what’s going on.

Russia’s Second Victim: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III

First, Advisor Michael Flynn resigned because of suspicious connections to Russia. Now, Jeff Sessions is under intense scrutiny over connections to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Sessions maintains that his meeting had nothing to do with the presidential campaign and was routine - which is plausible, since he did meet with many ambassadors while in the Senate. As a response, Sessions did agree to recuse himself from investigations into Russia’s involvements with the Trump campaign, which is totally a fair compromise. I don’t know how much we don’t know about this story, but I believe that Sessions was just doing a routine meeting. Every time Sessions was asked under oath about Russia, it was in such a manner that the question was “did you talk to Russia about Trump/the election” so he is consistent in his statements and has not lied (unless he’s lied big, big time). A quote that is often used is when, in his confirmation hearing, he said “I did not have communications with the Russians.” Seems like a real checkmate, doesn’t it? No. Yet another case of failing to use the whole quote. The quote is "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians," - he’s obviously talking about meeting with Russia in regards to the campaign. Nothing punishable.
Takeaway: If he committed perjury, it’s over doing something major that would be cause for him to resign anyway, and he’s not dumb so I believe that he is in the right here.

Trump’s Big Speech

“He’s finally pivoting! I told you he’d become sane!” -The pundits, over and over and over.

We’ve all been waiting for Donald to turn into a sane, rational being. Trump gave a big, presidential-sounding speech and we were told this was the moment, at long last. Of course, it didn’t last, but the mind still boggles. He reads Steve Bannon’s words off a screen with some dignity and refrains from an angry screed and he seems presidential? Man, the job must be easy then!
Trump’s speech was fine from an oratory perspective, and he did have a great moment with the widow of a fallen Navy SEAL. However, there is a thing called “the truth” that Donald did not adhere to very well. Here’s a headline that ran: “Donald Trump made 61 statements in his speech. 51 were false.” I do not know how we, as journalists, can consider this to be a great speech. It may be a great work of fiction, but our president doesn’t get to operate in fiction. Our president is working in the real world and he should act like it. Just because he slapped a presidential face on his lies doesn’t change the content of the speech. It was not a good, presidential speech, so don’t act like it was.

Nobody Knew!

In the latest incident of “Republicans skating around Obamacare replacement plan”, Donald Trump has uttered this unforgettable line:  “Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated!” Oh really, Donald? Don’t generalize for us. We’ve been screaming at y’all for a long time, telling you that a good replacement was going to be very difficult. Just because you don’t understand your job doesn’t mean we don’t either.

Back to Belfast

Last week, I covered the elections in Northern Ireland. Now, we get to see the results. As I said, the election was close between the Dublin Unionists and Sinn Fein. The DUP edged Sinn Fein out by just 1 seat and .2% of the vote, significantly closer than expected. It is a clear sign to the DUP that their far-right conservatism isn’t all that popular. However, it’s likely that the two parties will not be able to form a government, and yet another election will be held. Ah, parliamentary election systems...

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